Wylfa: New hybrid nuclear power plan for Anglesey

By George Herd
BBC News

image copyrightNuScale Power
image captionThere are plans to bring mini nuclear reactors to Wylfa on Anglesey

Small nuclear reactors and a wind farm could be built in north Wales under new plans from a UK energy firm.

Shearwater Energy said it could build the hybrid plant for "less than £8bn" and start generating carbon-neutral power by late 2027.

It said a site has been earmarked at Wylfa on Anglesey, separate to the stalled Wylfa Newydd nuclear plans.

Shearwater said it had signed an understanding with US power firm NuScale for the modular reactors.

Shearwater Energy's director Simon Forster said his company started pulling together proposals after Japanese energy giant Hitachi pulled out of the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power plant project in September.

The company said its hybrid model was a "flagship opportunity" for Wylfa and the UK power sector.

Mr Forster said the plans were "designed to provide decision-makers with alternatives and to ensure that the taxpayer and consumer gets the very best value for money" when the UK invests in zero-carbon power generation, something "the country is critically short of".

Under the Shearwater bid, Wylfa would become home to 12 small modular reactors (SMR) initially capable of generating 924 Megawatt electric (MWe) - one million watts of electric capacity - alongside a 1,000 MW wind farm.

About 1,000 MW is enough to power about 300,000 homes.

In addition, the plant would produce three million kilograms of hydrogen gas for use in the UK transport sector.

The SMR reactors would be able to provide power on-demand, known as "dispatchable" power generation, allowing operators to deliver electricity at any time of the day or night.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionPlans for a new conventional nuclear plant next to the old Wylfa site were put on hold last year

Mr Forster said it would take "at least four years of detailed planning and design" before the plant could be built, and it was currently at phase one of the process "in order to demonstrate both viability and speed of installation".

He said he envisaged the hybrid plant creating 300 permanent jobs at the site "for 60 years".

"But there are many more jobs in the rest of the country, especially Scotland and Ireland, that will be created," he said, especially if the SMR was being built in the UK, which was under investigation.

"The local content of our proposed project will be very high and will support a domestic supply chain of around 10,000 jobs," he added.

The company said the project's cost to build would be 40% less than a conventional nuclear plant.

Mr Forster said he was confident it could also deliver electricity at a price that "is very competitive with a gas-fired power station".

What exactly is a small modular reactor?

media captionThe BBC's Roger Harrabin explains how small nuclear reactors might work - using bags of rice

Mr Forster added: "Our project has absolutely nothing to do with the Horizon project or the winding down and transfer of their operations."

NuScale has signed a memorandum of understanding with Shearwater to deliver the SMR plants.

In August last year it became the first company to win approval for its small reactors from US nuclear regulators.

"With deep knowledge and expertise in the clean energy sector of the United Kingdom, Shearwater Energy understands the unique challenges facing the energy needs of the region," said Diane Hughes, NuScale Power vice-president.

She said the SMR was the "perfect complement to Shearwater's wind turbines as the United Kingdom seeks to meet its clean energy goals".

The UK government's Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said it was aware of the proposal from Shearwater.

A spokesman added: "We are willing to discuss new nuclear projects with any viable companies and investors wishing to develop sites, including in north Wales, and are considering a range of financing solutions."

image copyrightNuScale Power
image captionNuScale Power says its SMR power plant designs are the "perfect fit" for the Anglesey plan

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